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The future is closer than you think!

Victoria MacLennan. 18 May 2022, 9:57 pm
The future is closer than you think!

Yesterday I was hosted by Unitec for my first large in person event in over 2 years! (yay) while it was strange speaking to a room of 100+ people in these Covid times, the energy and enthusiasm in the room were infectious. 

The format was creative and inclusive with an informal air to the event - 30 minutes of kai, drinks and chatting, then 40 minutes of speeches followed by another kai, drinks, chatting break before the speakers answered an extensive Q&A from the audience. 3 hours went by in no time. 

My fellow speakers were Venessa Sorenson, Microsoft NZ MD; Steven Renata, Kiwa Digital MD; and we were hosted by Gus Gilmore, CEO of Unitec and MIT. Steven and Vanessa delivered inspirational talks on their rags to riches life stories, how Tech can present opportunities, while describing how their respective organisations are creating jobs and growing the workforce - their mahi is inspiring. I also want to thank Masoud Shakiba for inviting me to speak.  

The patai (questions) we had both in the breaks and during audience Q&A were varied and brave, posed by students and academics alike - asking for help with CV's, finding jobs, about technology for both good and bad purposes, support for those with disabilities including neurodiversity wanting to work in our industry, how to teach resilience, and where we see the future of education. We were also asked about the role of pakeha men in this world focused on equity and diversity. 

Vic's take on The future is closer than you think

Taking the topic seriously and in the privileged position of speaking first I thought I would focus on setting the scene. At a high level my take on this topic (in a 10 minute speaking slot) was this. Thank you to Brendan for the fabulous cartoons I used as visual prompts.  You can see my slides here.

Where are we today?

It's difficult to talk about the future of digital technology without focusing on the issues we are facing today - number one being the skills shortage. After 2 years of no immigration to supplement the workforce, coupled with decades of underinvestment in developing capability, the new "brain drain" media have been telling us about this week we find ourselves in the eye of a perfect storm. 

Equally digital inequity, digital poverty and digital harm are all widening the digital divide. Last night I read the 2004 Digital Strategy for Aotearoa where the government was boldly intending to close the digital divide by 2010 - yet look where we are today! 20% of NZ adults have below essential levels of digital skills. 

https://www.beehive.govt.nz/sites/default/files/Digital%20Strategy.pdf 

https://blog.bnz.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/BNS0692-Digital-Skills-Report-20224.pdf

Finally, I spoke on Diversity and Inclusion - our workforce should reflect our society yet the imbalance is still significant. 26% women, 4% Māori and 2.8% Pacific people. One of the key challenges is the environment and the need for us as an industry to reinvent this, embracing manaakitanga and changing the face of our industry.  

Future trends

Education will move from the current model into one where learners are in control, reskilling and ups killing enabling frequent role changes, bundling together their own pathways leveraging micro credentials and the ability to learn from any institute will become the norm. But we still have some big questions to answer as an industry. I often describe career pathways as the wild wild west, we reinvent ourselves with no clearly accountable professional pathways. The current scarcity of capability has led to very high salaries which is unsustainable, once we change the face of the industry we should expect this to be redressed - but is our industry up for that? 

I also spoke on the role of the "gig" economy, something that lost focus during Covid times while we were all looking for certainty and stability but like the ability to self curate an education path moving to a portfolio or gig working model will again rise and put freedom of assignment into the hands of the employee. 

Looking forward to 2050 I reminded our audience it's impossible to plan. We all had fantastic 2020 plans yet nobody was prepared for Covid or the impact it had globally. My key prediction is digital technology will become a core enabling element of solving complex global challenges - emissions reduction and climate change, wellbeing and equity, food sustainability, and child poverty for a start. As Gen Y move into management and Gen Z dominate the workforce they will demand to work on ethical, impactful projects. 

All of this said our industry has three large building blocks to resolve - Maturity, Governance and Capability. To be fair I was over time by this point and so didn't dive into these, which feel like a great starting point for another blog post. 

More TechWeek highlights to come 

Today ITP hosted an amazing webinar on Lifting the Cyber Security capability of Aotearoa - I will get the video up tomorrow. Everyone should watch / listen to this, jam packed with great insights and advice. 

Tomorrow I am MC for TechWeek TV all day with the focus of the day on Skills. Really looking forward to some of the panels and interviews. I will write up a summary of highlights on this for you to review next week as well. 

Enjoy this opportunity for us to gorge on relevant topics and attend great events. Ngā mihi Vic


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